Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Worst. Graduation Speaker. Ever.

So I just read that my high school, Walt Whitman HS (Bethesda, MD), had lined up journalist Helen Thomas to be this year's graduation speaker. For obvious reasons, that didn't work out; she was replaced with CBS's Bob Schieffer, certainly a distinguished honoree.

But it took me back to June 1991, when the graduation speaker for my class was... Anthony Dilweg.

Who? Fair question. My high school regularly had really awesome graduation speakers, a function of having kids whose parents either knew or were themselves fairly prominent in the DC area. For example, the year before my graduation, Whitman had Paul Tagliabue speak.

So. Dilweg. Again: Who? Let's go right to Wikipedia: He played QB for my high school in the mid-80s (notable for taking a 5th year, where he excelled). He went on to play at Duke, where he was fortunate enough to play QB during the Spurrier Era. Success!

This led to a job with the Green Bay Packers in the pre-Favre Era. In 1990, Dilweg played 9 games, accounting for 1,300 yards passing and 8 TDs. His brief moment of prominence as an NFL player yielded the graduation speaking spot.

Did that qualify him to offer up an inspiring graduation speech? Nineteen years later, in the haze of my memories, I remember being extremely underwhelmed at the content and a little bummed that the jockacracy appeared to have won the day. A year later, Dilweg was an afterthought, both to the NFL and to the graduating class of Walt Whitman High School, 1991.

I'm not sure how much this all matters (not at all, unless your speaker is, say, Barack Obama or Stephen Strasburg), but among the few things that people tend to remember from their high school years, the graduation speaker often stands out. It is the send-off -- kind of your last memory of the institution of high school.

I am sure that Bob Schieffer -- in his folksy, newsy way -- will offer up something profound. At least, more profound than Anthony Dilweg. Perhaps that is the greatest lesson you can pass along to high school graduates: Whether you keep the bar high or low, be sure the person in front of you has set expectations so low that you can't help but succeed by comparison.

Good luck with your future, high school graduates. And congratulations.

-- D.S.


Greg said...

Funny you should mention this topic. My high school - Kalamazoo (Michigan) Central High School, I am class of 1980 - DID in fact have President Barack Obama as its graduation speaker last night. KCHS won the first competition to have him speak at a commencement. Although tickets weren't available to the public, it was carried by the local media and was an outstanding speech.

Robyn said...

Hmm. I don't have a clue who spoke at my H.S. or college graduation ceremonies. But what is really pathetic is that I actually know who Anthony Dilweg was.